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Advice To Those With Learning Disabilities Transitioning To Life

It’s that time of year for new beginnings.

Spring is upon us; commencement is around the corner; and it’s a time for a new lease on life.  However, if you have a physical or learning disability or have a child with a physical or learning disability, this transition to life and college can be a daunting experience.  In the alphabet soup of acronyms, anyone can get lost trying to navigate their way.

A recent, book, The Guide to Transition Students with Disabilities, outlines the regulations which support those with disabilities: The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitations Act.  Those who are “differently abled” should know that both employers and colleges are required by federal law to provide reasonable accommodation to those with physical and cognitive disabilities.

The goal of these laws is to end discrimination against those who have disabilities.  Approximately 5.8 million children have a disability; further close to 2.3 million veterans are returning home from war with disabilities as well.  Disabilities can include visual impairments, brain injuries, psychological impairments, medical disabilities (such as diabetes) and orthopedic impairment.

As Dr. Jeffrey Holmes states, “self-advocacy is key in these situations for students, parents and job seekers”.  Knowing the rules empowers people to give schools and employers proper notice about a disability during the college or interview process.

Therefore, a keep in mind a few things when making transitions to college and life:

  • Have a clear diagnosis of the disability. Learning disabilities are typically diagnosed by a psychologists. Even is a physical disability might be obvious (being wheel chair bound for example), it is still prudent to have medical records available.
  • Alert colleges and employers about the disability at during the recruiting stage.  Colleges are obligated to provide reasonable accommodation, but need that medical information or diagnosis to move forward with the accommodation.  Employers are required to make accommodation even during phone interviews. Be clear about your needs and advocate for yourself BEFORE there is a problem.
  • Time management is key.  Keep a folder of contacts and people you have talked to in advocating for yourself. Take your time and make time to engage in proper self-advocacy.
  • Know the rules.  While colleges and employers might be bound by ADA, IDEA and section 504, self-advocacy begins with know your rights.

To learn more about federal regulations affecting young people with disabilities and their families, check out, The Guide to Transition Students with Disabilities, by Dr. Jeffrey Holmes, which is available on amazon.com and Barnesandnobles.com